The Impossibility of Removing the Dead from Among the Living

What became of the wounded?  Bellot de Kergorre, a Flemish war commissary wrote of what he found in Mojaisk where he was charged with the feeding of the wounded, “Bandaged with hay and groaning dreadfully, they lived for the first few days on the few grains they could find in the straw they were lying on and the little flour I was able to give them. When soup was made it had to be taken to them, but we’d nothing to put it in!  Providentially I came upon a fair number of little bowls intended for lamps, so we were able to give our patients some water.  The lack of candles was a terrible privation.”

In the poorly lit shelters, “some men who, hidden in the straw, had been overlooked.  A shocking thing was the impossibility of removing the dead from among the living.  I’d neither medical orderlies nor stretchers.  Not only the hospital but also the streets and houses were full of corpses.”

Kergorre does get some carts to remove the dead after a few days.  “I personally took away 128 who’d been serving as pillows for the sick and were several days old.”

Baron Jean Dominique Larrey
Tending the Wounded
at the Battle of Moscow
by Louise Lejeune

Captain Pierre Aubrey of the 12th Chasseurs had been wounded and was one of those lying in the straw in Mojaisk.  “I’d quite enough to do driving off people who came too close.  The stirring of the least blade of straw around me caused me atrocious pain.  The famous Dr. [Dominique Jean] Larrey and his surgeons had made so many amputations at Mojaisk that there was a heap of legs and arms so big a large room couldn’t have contained them.”

Kergorre continues and lists the supplies issued to him, “…one barrel of flour, which we distributed to the generals, 4 or 5 pounds apiece. There were twelve divisional generals and 14 brigadiers  As for the other wounded, they were excluded from this issue.”

“I had very few feverish cases and apart from two or three hundred deaths during the first few days I saved all my patients.”

Kergorre’s immediate supervisor expressly forbid him “… to touch the convoys destined for headquarters and ordered [him] to live off the country.  But I told him I’d take full responsibility for levying a tithe on the convoys, preferring to be court-martialled for feeding the wounded entrusted to my care than to let them die of hunger.”

Source:

1812: Napoleon’s Invasion of Russia, Paul Britten Austin, p. 326-328

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